Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heard: "The Drop" by Dennis Lehane

Heard: The Drop by Dennis Lehane, 2014, Overdrive download. Jim Frangione narrated.

A short novel. It has been a while since I read or heard a Lehane novel. A story with depressing topics and rotten people where bright spots of kindness and dignity shine through the rough. I have not seen the film version.

Bob is a Boston bartender busily busking bartops while bolstering burly, boisterous buyers with boosts of booze.  (I admit that I used a thesaurus.) Bob's life has been remarkably uneventful. He's spent a decade or so going to church, going to work and going home. He's a devout Catholic who daily Mass and he spends little money. He has no friends. He is very withdrawn. He doesn't date any women. He doesn't crack jokes or kid around. He avoids looking people in the eye.

Bob works for his cousin Marv. Marv used to own the bar, Cousin Marv's, until Chechen gangsters moved into the South Boston neighborhood and took the place over. Before the Cheches arrived Marv ran a small-time gangster crew of loan sharks that Bob worked for. Marv and Co. were never very violent and they weren't going to try standing up to the violence happy new guys. Marv folded his miniature crime syndicate, ceded bar ownership to the Chechens, and now manages the bar that doubles as a nightly drop spot for illegal gambling receipts. Lately, Marv has been thinking about how he used to be a big shot and was feared in the area.

One early morning Bob is walking home from work and hears something in a trash can. Bob looks. Bob sees. Bob finds a beaten puppy stuffed in an outdoor garbage can. Lady who lives at the garbage can house sees Bob. Bob and lady, Nadia, take dog into Nadia's place and clean the dog. Bob ends up keeping the dog. Things happen.

The bar is robbed. A violent former boyfriend of Nadia is the one who beat the dog and abandoned it to die; former boyfriend wants the dog back. Marv is scheming to rob the Chechens. Bob is excited and happy with the dog; he's feeling emotions that are new to him because of the dog and his new romantic attraction to Nadia. The Chechens are scary.

It's a neighborhood story. People know one another or identify themselves by their street, their parish, or shared friends. Lehane gives us the people and shows us how they act and why they do what they do. Bob is lonely both by nature and upbringing, but can kill when pushed. Nadia is used to crappy men. Marv wants to cash in after what he sees as years of humiliation and a crappy mid-life existence. Former Boyfriend is nuts and wants the dog back because he wants power over others.

Lehane writes well about the place and the characters.

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